New Delhi: Instead of waking up to the rising red sun on a cold Sunday morning, residents of the national capital’s Anaj Mandi woke up to thick smoke and trapped voices shrieking for help from inside a six-storeyed factory, which was engulfed in flames.
After hours of chaos and confusion, when the charred bodies were retrieved from the gutted bag factory and counted, the toll was 43. The victims were mostly labourers and they were sleeping in the factory when the fire broke out between 4.30 a.m. and 5 am.
The fire erupted on the first floor and hence occupants on the second floor couldn’t escape, eye-witnesses said. Most exit routes were partially blocked and several windows were found sealed.
The narrow lanes of Anaj Mandi area made rescue operations difficult for firefighters, who had to cut window-grills to get access to the building.
It is understood that the factory was illegal, had no clearances and was located in a residential area, in violation of all norms.
Many of the 50 victims, who were rescued and ferried to the hospital, were declared dead on arrival due to asphyxia, a condition that arises when the body is deprived of oxygen.
The police said an FIR has been registered against the factory owner for operating the bag manufacturing unit in a residential area and flouting safety norms.
A case under section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) has been registered against Rehan — known by his first name — who was running the unit on a 200-yard plot in the crowded market. He has since been arrested.
An unidentified elderly man whose three nephews worked in the building said, “At least 12-15 machines were installed in the unit.’’
Meanwhile, sources said the Ministry of Home Affairs has asked the Delhi Police to submit details of the incident and the action taken thereafter, as well as input on the flouting of norms. It is learnt that a report has also been sought from the city government.
Earlier, Union Home Minister Amit Shah called the incident a tragic loss of precious lives and instructed concerned authorities to provide all help.
Chaotic scenes were witnessed at the site, clogged with bystanders and politicians arriving in convoys. Among the VVIPS to make a beeline to the area were Union minister Hardeep Puri, CM Arvind Kejriwal and Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari. Also, there were a slew of announcements of compensation for the victims.
While the Delhi government has announced Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 lakh, respectively, for the families of the deceased and injured, PM Modi has sanctioned Rs 2 lakh and Rs 50, 000.
The Delhi unit of the BJP has also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for families of the killed and Rs 25,000 for the injured.
The blaze is said to be one of the biggest fire incidents in Delhi after the Uphaar Cinema fire which took place on June 13, 1997, in south Delhi’s Green Park area leading to the deaths of 59 people.
Source: Free Press Journal
Click to read article at Source 43 die in Delhi fire trap, factory owner arrested; had no clearance to run unit in residential area